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In The Heights Was Made By—and For—Latinx People

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West Side Story was played by a white woman, it felt like a betrayal. Growing up as a self-proclaimed theater kid at a predominantly white middle and high school in New Jersey, I made lists of my dream roles and the productions I hoped my school would put on.

But my list was narrowed to the limited Latinx characters I knew and the roles I had seen played by people who looked like me—Maria from West Side Story, Mimi from Rent, Elphaba from Wicked.

For years, Maria and Anita were all I had. But even as a child I noticed things about West Side Story that felt weird—like the over-exaggerated accents, or the fact that none of the Puerto Rican characters spoke Spanish when they were speaking to one another.

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